Narrative:At 17:00 September 4, Flight VN850 took off from Bangkok (BKK), Thailand, for Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), Vietnam, on a scheduled charter flight for Vietnam Airlines. The Airbus A310-200, carried a 12-member crew with a Bulgarian captain and 155 passengers.
When the aircraft was approximately 80 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, a passenger, Ly Tong, a former South Vietnamese fighter pilot and naturalized U.S. citizen, used a plastic knife and coat hanger to threaten crew members. Claiming that he had an explosive device, the hijacker made a flight attendant take him to the cockpit. The hijacker then forced the pilot to lower the aircraft's altitude to 500 feet, reduce its speed to the minimum, and enter the prohibited zone over Ho Chi Minh City.
For the next thirty minutes, Ly Tong threw sackfuls of leaflets out of the cockpit window that urged the Vietnamese people to rise up and overthrow Hanoi's communist government in order to "build an independent, free and prosperous Vietnam." Signing himself "Commander of the Uprising Forces," Tong declared on the leaflets that "only the Vietnamese Communists, while in their last breath, are still stubbornly trying, with a governing clique old and out of date, to go against the tide of humankind." The hijacker subsequently donned a parachute and jumped out of an emergency exit.
Ly Tong reportedly was captured in a field outside of Ho Chi Minh City two hours later and has been charged with air piracy. No one aboard the aircraft was injured and the aircraft was able to continue its flight, landing safely at Tan Son Nhut Airport in Ho Chi Minh City 38 minutes behind schedule. Tong later reportedly claimed that he originally had planned the incident for two days earlier on September 2, Vietnam's National Day, which celebrates Ho Chi Minh's 1945 declaration of independence from both the Japanese and French.
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This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not
display the exact flight path.
Distance from Bangkok-Don Muang International Airport to Ho Chi Minh City-Tan Son Nhat International Airport as the crow flies is 737 km (461 miles).
This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.